My shameful integer posts—and my shameless ones

You know what integer posts are—the ones where the title starts with an integer. I scorn them when I’m reading, so I tend not to write them. I’ve ended up writing a few, though. Seriously—sometimes they just pop out.

I knew I’d written three, but looking back over my list of Wise Bread posts, I see that I’ve actually written six, a fact that I’m somewhat ashamed of:

These last two are sliders. For one thing, the integer is spelled out, not written as a digit. For another, the posts are organized as a logical sequence, rather than as a lame list. I don’t know if they count or not, but the title begins with an integer, so I’m including them.

This next list, though, don’t count. They’re posts that quite legitimately include a number in the title because it’s part of what the post is about:

Those I’m not ashamed of at all. I mean, 401(k) isn’t even an integer!

Oh, and I almost missed this shameful integer post, because I’d hidden the integer in the middle:

And what about this one?

Shameful? Or shameless?

Sadly, integer posts do seem to work, if by “work” you mean “get more reads.” Perhaps the title of this post should have been “7 Shameful Integer Posts”! Hmm?

Soldierette mention

My Wise Bread post Have Style, not a Lifestyle picked up a mention on the blog Soldierette as one of 5 Unmissable Personal Style Tips.

I spent a few minutes poking around the site. There’s a lot to like there. The fitness stuff in particular caught my eye. (I’m always trying to balance staying motivated enough to get my exercise with avoiding injuring myself by training too much or too hard. I find fitness-related writing helps with both aspects of that.)

Reprint sale of “Like a Hawk in its Gyre”

Got word from Mur Lafferty that Escape Pod will buy audio reprint rights to my story “Like a Hawk in its Gyre”!

The story previously appeared in the February 2011 issue of Redstone Science Fiction.

This will be my first audio publication. I’m very much looking forward to hearing a reader’s interpretation of my writing.

Contributor’s copy for “Watch Bees” in Russian!

In the post yesterday I found my contributors copy of the Russian magazine Esli (If) with the Russian translation of “Watch Bees”!

I’d been keeping an eye on their website, expecting that they’d update it with the new issue before I got my copy by international mail, but the paper copy arrived first.

Very interesting to see my name transliterated into Cyrillic characters.

I happened to know that the character that looks like P is pronounced as R, so I was tentatively able to spot “Brewer” in the table of contents by the placement of the Ps. I still wasn’t sure, of course, but my feeling was somewhat strengthened by the initial character of my first name looking like a Greek Phi.

The table of contents directed me to page 111, and flipping ahead to there I was able to confirm my story by the interior illustration:

What a great picture! It captures a key scene in the story while avoiding any spoilers.

I haven’t very often gotten an illustration for one of my stories, so I’m especially pleased.

I’ll try to figure out the artist’s name and see if he or she has a website I can link to. (The name is there on the picture, but in Cyrillic characters. And it’s a long name. I guess my next step is to spend half an hour hunting for each character on a Unicode character table.)

My mother-in-law, who speaks some Russian, has been asking after this issue. She’ll be very excited to learn that it has arrived.

Race and the fictional character

One of my Clarion classmates, Nnedi Okorafor, tweeted today wondering why sometimes authors won’t just say what race a character is. I doubt if she was thinking about me, but I’m one of those writers who is sometimes coy about a character’s race. My answer won’t fit in 140 characters, so I thought I’d write a post.

The most common instance when I do this (just provide physical descriptions, rather than stating a racial identity) is when the viewpoint character doesn’t know the answer.

This is pretty common in real life. There are plenty of people I know whose ethnic heritage is not at all obvious just from their appearance. You’d have to ask.  And these days, I hesitate to ask—some people take offense at the question, and others are simply tired of answering. So, just like in the real world, my characters often don’t know the ethnic heritage of other characters. Sometimes they’ll speculate. Other times they won’t.

The other common instance when I do this is when the whole cultural background thing is complex enough to be a distraction from the story. A character of South Asian heritage might be one whose ancestors had immigrated to Uganda but whose grandparents had been expelled and moved to England. But for story purposes I might decide that all I want to say is that she has straight, dark hair and speaks with an English accent.

Finally, what I’m working on right now is a far-future story where humans have spread to a hundred worlds. Even when they know where on Earth people had a particular skin color, they know no more about the paths their various ancestors took than I know about mine. (I can point to some English, Irish, and Dutch—but there’s reason to believe that one of my male ancestors came from somewhere around the Mediterranean, or maybe Sarmatia.)

I do have one unfinished story where I play around a bit with ethnicity, because the viewpoint character was raised to be interested in it. Due to his background, he’s much better at it than I am, able to look at people and perceive that this one is Celtic, that one Igbo, another Chettiar. It was fun to write those bits, but it got to be a bit much to be just a quirk of the character, without managing to rise to the level of being a powerful driver of the story.

Guest Post at Asta Lander’s Simply Living

I’ve got a guest post up at Asta Lander’s blog Simply Living, about the trade-offs that people make when they choose to work for wages or a salary, and how you can get most of the benefits while avoiding most of the downside.

It’s called Choosing Freedom.

There was a time when most people were self-sufficient. They acquired what they needed through some mix of hunting, gathering, fishing, farming, raising animals, and making things themselves. Not many people do that any more.

J. P. Wickwire review of “Watch Bees.”

Found a very nice review of “Watch Bees” by J. P. Wickwire in last August’s Tangent.

Not only a nice review, but one full of great quotes. Here’s just one:

“Watch Bees” takes place in an utterly engaging, but strikingly off-kilter world; full of characters doused in human potential, and whose voices establish themselves early on.

Writing in 2011

I sold one new story in 2011: “Watch Bees” to Asimov’s Science Fiction. It appeared in the August 2011 issue.

“Watch Bees” also gave me my first reprint sale, first foreign sale, and first sale in translation: it should appear in the Russian sf magazine ESLI early in this new year.

A story I sold in 2010 was published in 2011: “Like a Hawk in its Gyre” appeared in the February 2011 issue of Redstone Science Fiction. (They also published an interview with me in the same issue.)

As far as writing new fiction goes, I had mixed results. I finished several first drafts and got them critiqued by the Incognitos, but late in the year I had an unproductive spell, and only one of those critiqued drafts has been transformed into a submission draft that I’m satisfied with. (I have a query out to an editor who had expressed an interest in that story. If he doesn’t want it, I’ll send it off to the regular magazine markets.)

The new year should be more productive, with several stories a short step from being submission-ready, and several new projects waiting to be begun.

I wrote “Four Steps to Managing Personal Debt” for American Public Media Marketplace‘s Makin’ Money blog.

I also wrote 29 articles for Wise Bread. I’ve bolded a few where I thought I managed to say just what I was trying to say: